Swimming and Diving Teams Split with Jumbos, Drowned By Camels

By Fritz Parker

The Middlebury swimming & diving team opened its season on the road at Connecticut College on Saturday, Nov. 17, taking on both the host school and Tufts. While the men fell to both opponents, the women defeated the Jumbos but fell just short of the host Camels.

Both teams had been training hard leading up to opening weekend, fitting in nine practices each week in addition to weight training.

“I think the weight room, dry-land [and] CrossFit element has made some people sore,” said head coach Bob Rueppel. “We had a really great practice on Thursday and then Friday they were hurting a little bit, but they have to deal with that mentally.”

Given the rigorous early-season schedule, Rueppel had modest expectations for his athletes’ times in the season’s first competition.

“We don’t expect to swim super-fast right now,” he said. “We’re tired. We’ve been doing a lot of work. It was really neat to see everyone race. College swimming dual meets are really about racing.”

Nevertheless, Middlebury athletes on both sides managed top performances.

For the women, Jamie Hillas ’15 (100 breaststroke and 200 IM), Maddy Berkman ’15 (100 and 200 butterfly), Hannah King ’13 (one and three-meter diving) and Maddie Pierce ’16 (200 backstroke) each won individual events, while both the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay finishing second. These finishes propelled Middlebury past Tufts — who finished third in the NESCAC a year ago — by a score of 159-134. The women fell to Conn. College 149-138.

“On the ladies side, we had some nice surprises,” said Rueppel. “Some people just needed to get their first meet out of the way, get the jitters out. We look at the big picture. I was more concerned with performance.”

For the men, the points were a bit more difficult to come by. Ian McKay ’14 impressed in his first meet back from injury, winning the 100 butterfly and finishing second in the 50 freestyle. Stephan Koenisberger ’16 was runner-up in the 100 breaststroke. The 200 free relay of Bryan Cheuk ’16, Ethan Litman ’13, Mike Oster ’14 and McKay also finished second. Overall, the men were defeated by both Tufts and Conn. College, falling 183-104 and 179-99 respectively.

“On the guys’ side, we knew it was going to be difficult to beat those two teams at this juncture of our training, and the guys were much more competitive than last year,” said Rueppel. “It was really a lot of fun. I was pleased overall.”

Rueppel was optimistic about the return of McKay and the effect it will have on the men’s team this season.

“Ian was a beast this weekend,” he said. “He’s been incredible with his rehab, getting back into it this year, buying into the new system. Having a guy like that, which we didn’t have last year, you have a guy that sets the tone on a relay.”

After a weekend without competition over Thanksgiving break, the team returns to the pool with a new perspective on how they will need to improve.

“We’re looking at two more solid weeks of training before finals,” said Rueppel. “We want to build on what we’ve done in the first compartment of the season. They know we’ve been training on a really high level, but we’ve got to keep wanting more. What really matters is what you do in February.”

Both the men and the women return to competition on Saturday, Dec. 1, when they host Amherst. The Lord Jeffs were runners-up on both sides at NESCACs a year ago, and will provide tough early-season competition for the Panthers.

“For the girls, I think we can compete with [Amherst] for the first time, and I think they know it,” said Rueppel. “They’ve already been talking about it. Having the comfort of home, I think our men can get out and really race.”

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